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Osteoarthritis and You

CDC is committed to the growing issue of Osteoarthritis (OA) and will continue its work to lead the way to promoting key solutions that will improve the lives of those living with OA and those having other chronic diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes in addition to OA.

OA is a painful joint disease that can place severe limits on daily activity and quality of life. OA, which is the most common form of arthritis, often causes weakness and disability, interferes with people's ability to work, and results in costly joint replacements. The prevalence of OA increases rapidly beginning at age 45, affecting many people in their prime working years. One in two Americans will get some form of OA in their lifetime and 27 million adults currently have it. One in two Americans may develop symptomatic knee OA in their lifetime.

Graphic: Weight Management. Self Management Education. Physical Activity. Injury Prevention.What You Can Do if You Have OA

A report from CDC and the Arthritis Foundation recommends physical activity and self-management education to help people with osteoarthritis manage their condition, reduce symptoms such as pain, and improve physical function.

In response to the recommendations, CDC has English and Spanish Health Communication Campaigns recommending exercise for people with arthritis and a list of several proven programs that can help people with arthritis exercise safely and manage their arthritis symptoms.

CDC partner, the Arthritis Foundation, has debuted a new campaign featuring tennis pro Billie Jean King on getting people with arthritis to use physical activity as a weapon against arthritis. The key message is that Moving is Medicine and "movement is your best defense against arthritis". For a look at the spots which are being featured on television and radio networks across the country, visit:

For more information about the recommendations in A National Public Health Agenda for Osteoarthritis, the evidence-based community programs for people with arthritis that CDC recommends, or the states that offer these programs visit:,

"Implementation of the recommendations paves the way, not only for an expanded public health role in combating arthritis' effect on our health system and economy, but also in addressing disability and quality of life, particularly for people who must manage multiple chronic diseases such as OA in addition to diabetes, obesity or heart disease," says Dr. Wayne Giles, Director of the Division of Adult and Community Health for the CDC.

Know Your Risk. 50 million people are affected with arthritis. It is estimated that 1 in 2 people will get symptomatic knee OA in their lifetime. It is estimated that 1 in 2 people will get some form of OA in their lifetime. With the combination of the aging Baby Boomer population, increased longevity of U.S. citizens and the obesity epidemic, the rising prevalence of OA is expected to contribute even more heavily to the severe health and economic effects already present. OA often causes weakness and disability, interferes with work productivity, and results in joint replacement.

Be Aware of OA Risk Factors. A recent community study estimated that the lifetime risk of developing knee osteoarthritis serious enough to cause symptoms is 45%. Risk for knee OA increases to 57% among people with a past knee injury. The same study found that the lifetime risk for knee osteoarthritis also goes up with increased weight, with 2 in 3 people who are obese at risk. Many people with OA are not being proactive because of the misconception that arthritis is an inevitable part of aging and that the aches and pains are simply something you must learn to live with.

Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle. Many people with OA also suffer from other chronic illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease, for which physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight are also recommended. Approximately 50% of all people with diabetes also have some form of arthritis. Over half of all adults with heart disease have arthritis. Because of this, it is especially important that people with arthritis, especially those with OA (which can be weight-related), include the recommended amounts of physical activity as a part of their lifestyle (per the national Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans and A National Public Health Agenda for Osteoarthritis).

Photo: Women exercising in a swimming pool.Get Moving. Research shows that the presence of OA and arthritis in general, may be a barrier to physical activity among those who have the disease. This is particularly significant given that physical activity is one major, non-pharmacological way to effectively reduce arthritis symptoms such as pain and loss of function. Though people who have OA may be hesitant to exercise, routine exercise is recommended for them both in the National Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans and in A National Public Health Agenda for Osteoarthritis.

Get Help. CDC and the Arthritis Foundation suggest several physical activity and self-management education programs that are both proven to be effective and highly recommended for people with arthritis who need special information about exercising safely. A complete listing of these programs and more information about them may be found by visiting: Currently these programs reach only about 1% of the population. The OA agenda was formulated, partly to direct public health activities to help close this gap and make the evidence-based programs more readily available to the people who can benefit from them. You should also check out, where you can learn about simple steps you can take to reduce pain, increase mobility and slow the progression of their arthritis. The site includes a self-screening quiz, movement tracker, live twitter feed, community forums and blogs, program and event locator and campaign materials.

More Information

CDC works 24/7 saving lives and protecting people from health threats to have a more secure nation. A US federal agency, CDC helps make the healthy choice the easy choice by putting science and prevention into action. CDC works to help people live longer, healthier and more productive lives.

  • Page last reviewed: February 9, 2012
  • Page last updated: February 9, 2012
  • Content source:
    • Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs
    • Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs